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John Harrington  LL.B (Dublin) BCL (Oxon) FLSW

John Harrington

LL.B (Dublin) BCL (Oxon) FLSW

Professor of Global Health Law, Director Welsh Graduate School for the Social Sciences

School of Law and Politics

+44 29208 74098
sbarc|spark, Room 3.27, Maindy Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ
Available for postgraduate supervision


Health, law, and the state is the focus of my research, teaching, and supervison. Writing on the following areas:

  • the impact of global health law on states in the global south, including access to essential medicines, pandemic control, indigenous medical knowledge, the right to health;
  • the emerging health law of UK's devolved nations, including organ donation, disease control, health systems, public health, cross-border care;
  • the development of British medical law since the foundation of the NHS.

Combining socio-legal and humanities approaches to law, including qualitiative empirical, legal doctrinal, and archival methods, as well as techniques of close-reading from classical rhetoric and modern cultural studies. Interest in the state informed by global governmentality, constructivist IR, and Third World approaches to law.

Recent research funded by ESRC, AHRC, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, Welsh Government, Open Society Justice Initiative. 

Founding Director of the Welsh Graduate School for Social Sciences (ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership) and currently Chair of the Socio-Legal Studies Association.

Fáilte chuig mo shuíomh! Karibuni ukarasani kwangu! Croeso i bawb! Welcome!



























Book sections





What matters in my research?

Health and law
My published work ranges across topics like access to essential medicines, respect for the right to health, measures to control infectious diseases, accountability of health professionals, and the commercialization of  indigenous medicine. Comprehensive report on State Obligations Regarding the Distribution of Health Resources for Open Society Justice Initiative to support complaint re Bulgaria before the European Committee of Social Rights.

Informed by socio-legal studieslaw and humanities, and Third World approaches to law, I am concerned with the reciprocal relations between law and its political and social contexts. Specifically, I argue that national contexts are overlooked in global health law, though parliaments and courts, activist groups and ministries play an essential role in implementing, resisting, or adapting measures from WHO and other agencies. Covid-19 showed that health law is diverging in the different countries of the UK. There too 'national' contexts matter.

Refusing hard boundaries, I take a multidisciplinary approach, as reflected in the places where my work is published: law journals, but also those in anthropology, politics and international relations, area studieslegal history, and public health. Methods include 'blackletter' analysis of law, interviews, archival research and cultural studies of law.

Working through topics and a variety of disciplines, my research is consistently concerned with how things are represented in texts and speech, a theoretical and methological approach set out in my 2017 monograph Towards a Rhetoric of Medical Law and subsequent papers.

The role of  the state as a source of health law, and as the focus for health law duties, is a consistent thread in my work. From Tanzania during the period of structural adjustment (austerity) in the 1990s, through the implementation of the  TRIPs agreement in the global south, to the rise of 'global health partnerships' for research, to the impact of devolution on health law in the UK. 

Other things
I have taken these concerns and methods beyond health law, with a particular focus on law in post-colonial contexts, including: legal education in independent states, and the role of ex-patriate scholars and judges; corruption, governance and electoral reform; European/Irish citizenship and race.

The case study Influencing the 2017 Supreme Court Judgment to Overturn the Presidential Election Result in Kenya, on which I was lead author, was rated 4*/3* in REF 2021. Based on published research on consitututional transformation and state power in East Africa.

I am currently working on Health Ethics and Law for Post-Primary Students in Wales (HEAL):  a course for post-primary students co-produced with Fitzalan High School Cardiff. Developing quality materials and activities for teachers and students enabling delivery of new Curriculum for Wales. Based on my research project on health law under devolution in Wales and the UK (see above). Co-led with Dr Barbara Hughes Moore (Cardiff LawPl) supported by ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (£15k). Guided by advisory group (inc. Seren Network, Cardiff Council, Cardiff University LTA, Sherman Theatre). 

The first year of HEAL culminated in moot court (mock trial) focussed on ethical and legal controversies in organ donation involving Fitzalan students, Cardiff Law students and actors. We participated in ESRC Festival of Social Science piloting HEAL materials in the Welsh language with Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf. 

Current and recent projects
Legal Transplants and Policy Transfers: Legislating for Organ Donation in a Devolved UK in collaboration with Mason Institute, University of Edinburgh. Funded by a British Academy/ Leverhulme award (£9k), this studies the process by which health law is made across the four nations of the UK. Dataset completed: 30 interviews with legislators, policymakers and health professionals across the UK countries. Two papers under review.

Towards a Welsh Health Law: Values, Governance and Devolution after COVID-19: the first study of this emerging field funded by Welsh Government/Ser Cymru award (£90k). Surveying substantive areas: public health, NHS in Wales, cross-border access to treatment, mental health/capaity, as well as values basis and constitutional context. Papers - published:  Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly; and under review, as well as UKCLA blog.

COVID-19 in Kenya: Global Health, Human Rights and the State in a Time of Pandemic in collaboration with the African Population and Health Research Center and the Katiba Institute, Nairobi, funded by AHRC award (£149k). Project completed with articles published in Legal Studies, African AffairsIrish Studies in International Affairs and BMC Public Health, as well as blogs in African ArgumentsThe Elephant, and Mambo

Inclusion, Participation and Development: Implementing Kenya’s Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act 2016 in collaboration with the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, Strathmore University Nairobi (HEFCW GCRF £37k award). Dataset completed: focus groups with knowledge-holding communities at two sites in rural Kenya and interviews with policy makers and county and national level.




My teaching is strongly informed by research: pioneering the teaching of Global Health Law at masters level in the UK and as a Global Visting Scholar at the University of Melbourne. Designing and delivering health and human rights training as part of the collaborative PhD program in population and public health of the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA). Module on Global Health: Law and Governance has been jointly taught to International Relations and Law students at masters level in Cardiff. Co-leading Global South Socio-Legal Journals Writing Workshops (Delhi, Accra, Nairobi) with British Academy funding. Further teaching innovation and external teaching work is set out below.

Teaching Innovation

1 Global Justice Law Clinic

This ‘pro-bono’ programme was founded in 2015 to enable Cardiff students to work with lawyers and global NGOs on securing cross-border accountability for human rights violations (eg. slum clearance in Kenya, mining industry security issues in Tanzania). One of only two such programmes in the UK it has been favourably mentioned by Baroness Hale, President of the UK Supreme Court (at the Society of Legal Scholars plenary 2017), and resulted in myself and Professor Manji who runs it with me, being invited to address plenaries at the three main learned societies in law in the UK (ie SLS, ALT, SLSA) on innovation in legal education.

Key partners include Deighton Pierce Glynn (human rights solicitors, London and Bristol), Amnesty International (London and Nairobi), Hingorani Foundation (New Delhi), Open Society Foundation (London and New York), Legal and Human Rights Centre (Dar es Salaam) and Katiba - Constitution Institute (Nairobi), Rights and Accountability in Development (Oxford).

Students engaged in drafting legal documents (eg complaints to EU Commission), conduct interviews with clients (eg in Tanzania) and prepare briefings for trial lawyers (eg UK tort and human rights case, and claim before African Court of Human and People’s Rights). Placements secured for students in New Delhi (eg. Indian Green Tribunal and Delhi Commission on Women’s Rights) and in Nairobi (eg International Commission of Jurists) with successful applications to Cardiff’s Global Opportunities scheme in 2017 and 2018.

2 Law and Literature: Sherman Theatre Collaboration 

One of the few of its kind in UK Law Schools, this module was introduced to engage undergraduate students in study of law as a form of performance and with representations of law in culture. Since its introduction in 2015, the module which is now led by Dr Barabra Hughes Moore, developed a partnership with the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, whereby teaching is integrated with one of the company’s major new productions each year (ie. Love, Lies and Videotape in 2016 and The Cherry Orchard in 2017). Students doing extended seminar work on the literary, legal and political issues in the drama, before attending performances and participating in post-production discussions at the Theatre with actors and directors. Follow-up classes on performance in law and on stage are then co-taught with the Sherman’s Community Theatre staff.

3 Global Problems and Legal Theory

Based on a radical overhaul of traditional Legal Theory teaching, this module aims to introduce students to key philosophical debates (eg. the nature of law, limits to human rights, and historic justice) through concrete problems in world society (eg. transitional justice in South Africa, global intellectual property rights, and the UK’s development aid commitment). Taught in a flipped format, with classes led by student-teams this module is delivered in collaboration with the Welsh Centre for International Affairs at the Temple of Peace. As with Law and Literature, student feedback praises the innovative mode of delivery, practical experience and engaging content. 


Scholarship on Teaching

My research portfolio includes a sustained engagement with issues in legal education. In earlier papers written with Professor Ambreena Manji and published in Africanist and law journals, I have explored moments in the history of legal education in Africa and the lessons for current work on decolonizing the curriculum. Recent work includes a history of conflicts over legal training in Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana (American Journal of Legal History), a plea for a cosmopolitan renewal in UK legal education (UCD Working Papers series), and a review of the contribution of the journal Social and Legal Studies in this field.



External examiner (UG/PGT): Kent, Warwick, Queen Mary, Newcastle.




Professor of Global Health Law at Cardiff University, holding degrees in law from Trinity College, Dublin (LL.B.) and Oxford University (BCL).

Founding Director of the Welsh Graduate School for Social Sciences (WGSSS), an ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership . Leading bid for recommissioning in  2022/23, rated 'outstanding' and visionary' by ESRC. 

WGSSS will deliver world class training and PhD funding for 360 students over 5 cohorts across 7 universities. Strategic partnerships Welsh Government, HEFCW, Office for National Statistics, the Well-Being of Future Generations Commissioner, Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, Welsh Council for Voluntary Action and Natural Resources Wales, to develop a common training platform across Wales, as well as internships for all students and collaborative PhD studentships.

It represents a total investment in social sciences PGR in Wales of £40 million, including £20 million from ESRC, £18.5 million in match-funding from HEIs, and £1.5 million from non-academic partners

Elected chair of the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA) for four years in 2022. SLSA is a major learned society in the UK, with members around the world. Working with a Board of Trustees to support regular activities: book and article prizes; awards; research and impactfunding; supervising annual conference (over 20 streams, 900 delegates  - 650 in person, 250 on-line – from over 20 countries); dedicated PGR training events. Advancing strategic initiatives in international cooperation, EDI and precarity, and interdisciplinary collaboration with other learned societies, including active participation in the Academy of Social Sciences.

Lead organizing committee for SLSA Annual Conference 2021, the first to be held on-line due to Covid-19, attended by a record 800 delegates from around the world; securing £35k in donations from journals and learned societies to cover platform costs, and secure SLSA finances given cancellation of conference in 2020. 

Founding Director of Cardiff Law and Global Justice, research centre (2015-22): co-leading British Academy Global South Writing Workshops; student human rights law clinic with Deighton, Pierce Glyn Solicitors and Amnesty International; collaborative doctoral workshop with Kent and Warwick Universities; public lecture series with Welsh Centre for International Affairs; founding member of the international Law and Development Research Network


Before moving to Cardiff I held appointments as Professor of Law, University of Liverpool (2004-14), Lecturer in Law, Warwick University (1994-2004) and Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Law at the Free University of Berlin (1992-4).

Director of Liverpool University’s Institute of Medicine Law and Bioethics (2006-10), a Global Visiting Scholar in the Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne (2006) and a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy (2001-2). Research fellowships also held at the Universities of Dar es Salaam and Cape Town, at the Wissenschaftszentrum fuer Sozialforschung (WZB) in Berlin and the Institute of Health, Warwick University.

More recently I was Senior Research Fellow at the British Institute in Eastern Africa and a Visiting Researcher at the African Population and Health Research Centre, both Nairobi (2010-14).

Is í an Ghaeilge teanga mo theaglaigh, agus táim tiomnaithe do chur chun cinn na teangan. Feidhmím mar thrachtaire rialta ar RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta ag labhairt fén dlí is fé chúrsaí polaitíochta sa Ríocht Aontaithe agus níos faide i géin. 

I speak Irish, English, German (C2), French (C1) Italian (C1), Kiswahili (A2) and Welsh (A1).

Honours and awards

Runner-up, Socio-Legal Theory and History Book Prize of the Social and Legal Studies Association for Towards a Rhetoric of Medical Law (2017).

Senior Research Fellow, British Institute in Eastern Africa (2010-14)

Visting Research Fellow, African Population and Health Research Centre, Nairobi (2011-14)

Global Fellow, Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne (2007)

Jean Monnet Fellow, European University Institute (2001-2)

Research Fellow, Wissenschaftszentrum fuer Sozialforschung Berlin (WZB) (1999)

Visting Fellow, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town (1999)

Visting Fellow, Faculy of Law, University of Dar es Salaam (1997)

Academic positions

2013-        Professor of Global Health Law, Cardiff University

                  Director, Welsh Graduate School for the Social Sciences (ESRC DTP) (2019- )

                  ESRC IAA Steering Group (2016- )

                  Spark - Social Science Research Park Management Committee (2019- )

                  ESRC Future Leader/New Investigator Panel (2022- )

                  University REF 2021 Committee (AHSS College Link) (2018-20)                 

                  University Research Ethics and Integrity Committee (2016-19)

                  Director of Research, Cardiff School of Law and Politics (2014-16)


2004-2013  Professor of Law, University of Liverpool (parental leave 2011-13)

                    Director, Institute of Medicine Law and Bioethics (IMLAB) (2007-09)


1994-2004   Lecturer in Law, University of Warwick

1992-1994   Lecturer, Department of Comparative Law, Freie Universität Berlin

Committees and reviewing

Journals and Learned Societies

Journal of Law and Society - Editorial Board: duties include advancing global south publishing initiative within the journal (from 2017).

Medical Law International - Editorial Board (from 2023).

Socio-Legal Studies Association - Chair and Trustee (from 2017).

Refereeing for journals/ publishers inlcudingMedical Law Review; Modern Law Review, Legal Studies, Medical Anthropology; Health Care Analysis; British Medical Journal; Law and Humanities, Law, Culture and Humanities; African Affairs; Journal of Eastern African Studies;  Edward Elgar, Cambridge University Press, Hart Publishing.

Funding: Reviewing Work

Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College member (from 2016)

Economic and Social Research Council Global Challenges Research Fund Peer Review College member (from 2016).

Reviewing individual applications for Medical Research Council, Leverhulme Trust and Wellcome Trust.


Happy to supervise in all areas of my research and teaching practice. These include: global health law, health and human rights; law and literature; legal rhetoric; law and colonialism; legal education (including clinic); philosophy of law. 

Currently lead supervisor for 4 PhD students, researching in the following areas: 

- Children's participation in climate change litigation (Asteropi Chatzinikola)
- Indigenous communities and access to health care in Kenya (Faith Simiyu)
- Travelling communities, trust and the right to health in Wales (Erin Thomas)
- The law and politics of minimum unit pricing of alcohol in Wales and Scotland (Simon Jones) 

Past projects

Recent successful supervision on research topics including:

- Islamic tax, human rights and health care funding;
- Framing international debates in child labour;
- Doubles fiction and criminal responsibility in English and Welsh law;
- Theories of global justice and asylum procedure in the UK;
- Protecting the interests of surrogates in Indian law;
- Spatial justice, participation and health care in a Nairobi settlement;
- Regulation of stem cell therapy in India;
- The 'hostile environment' and the UK border.

Research students working with me have been funded by Commonwealth Scholarships, ESRC 1+3 awards, AHRC Research Studentships and Vice-Chancellor's Studentships (Cardiff). I am happy to work with potential researchers to help secure funding.

PhD examiner at universities including: Essex, Newcastle, Warwick, Keele, Leeds, Manchester, Cape Town, Jindal, Tilburg, IALS, Bristol, Queen Mary, Swansea.


Research themes


  • Medical and health law
  • Transnational Law
  • Law, Culture and Rhetoric
  • Global Health Law
  • Socio-Legal Studies